Category: Learning - Women in Motorcycling
I am so very lucky to have wonderful people mentoring me in my riding. Although I am not the world's best rider by far, I do feel comfortable helping a newer rider get comfortable in her seat. I think, because I remember exactly how frustrating and scary learning to ride can be, that I am actually being helpful. I spent the morning down on the lake with Elana practicing a bit. For the most part, I was able to control my urge to just tell her everything I learned last season. It's important that most lessons are learned her way at her pace. I do know how nervous I get watching my mirror to make sure she is there or how worried I was on the "real road" with her for the first time. She did great! I was so proud of her! It was such a great morning to ride!

Miles ridden: 10
Total miles this season: 234
Lifetime miles: 2298

_So... today is one of the few days i'll get to ride this month thanks to a couple of minor surgeries and my crazy schedule, so I would not be thwarted in my desire to get some miles under my butt. I set out on an adventure with MJ (my riding mentor) and Nora (one of my time share buddies) that took us to my favorite place-- the ravines! Except-- the first time through we got behind a cage going- i kid you not- 10 miles per hour. so yeah-- not so much on the fun that time. Then we turned around to do them again...and a biker coming the opposite way tapped his helmet... SIGH slow way down, and no fun. FINALLY the third time through we got to ride at a more comfortable speed and it was fun fun fun!!!

Then we played musical bikes.

Then, it was time to get over it and get my butt up on the interstate. So...on we went. And i was doing ok! I was up to speed (kinda) and not freaking out and all was great. I was singing hymns in my helmet and having a grand old time. (yes, I sing hymns in my helmet...i don't know why)

And the distance the sky grew dark...and then it grew darker. And then the hymns in my helmet started getting new words... "no that's not a big old rainstorm coming" and "please oh God don't let it rain on me on the interstate my first time or I'll completely lose my mind" and "is the sky supposed to be that color" were popular lyrics at the time.

Good news? It never did open up and pour. What it DID however was scarier...seriously the wind was insane. Trees were bent in half, branches and leaves and god only knows what else was flying across the road, trucks were blowing around, cars were bouncing and there we were...on bikes. It was at that time that I stopped singing and started screaming into my helmet. "OMG GET ME OFF THIS INTERSTATE" and "PLEASE MJ TAKE THE TOUHY EXIT" and "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING IS THE WORLD ENDING" were common phrases, a few might have had some expletives mixed in as well.

MJ led us off and we pulled into a parking lot and waited it out. It never did open up and pour, but MJ did get some pictures of our dramatic reenactment of the wind.

Once it passed we high-tailed it home, which was good because then there was lightening.

But hey-- my first interstate ride would not be thwarted! I DID IT!!!


Thanks to MJ and Nora for the support and courage!
So, yesterday I went out for a ride for the first time without the supervision of a mentor rider. I had never ridden without a more experienced rider along with me before, so needless to say, I was nervous.

To calm my nerves, I did "T-clocs" on the bike-- checking the tires, fluids, etc. I found out that the tires were at 22 and 29 psi and are supposed to be at 29 and 36 according to the M.O.M., so needless to say, I took a field trip to put air in the tires. Here's a lesson for you: proper air pressure makes for better gas mileage-- i got much fur

I ended up meeting up with 2 other new-ish riders. We met up and headed out the Ravines. And here's the kicker- I led the ride. Although there were only 3 of us, leading is a whole new set of experiences. There's always something to worry about-- making sure the people behind you are still there, wondering what happened to them when they are not, making sure you're leading everyone the right way, trying to keep everyone in close formation so that they are safe, trying to make sure that you point out any road hazards, send hand signals to ride single file, signal for turns and make sure you know if you're stopping at lights or going through them on yellow. It's a lot of responsibility!

All of that said, it was a fantasic ride and we felt super empowered afterwards. It felt really good to have accomplished a ride without a "grown up" rider along with us. For me, it was my first experience of being unsupervised and it was nerve-wrackign and exhilerating all at the same time.

It was a beautiful day for zipping through the ravines and enjoying the scenery, but for me it was all about taking another step in my riding and developing more confidence.
On Memorial Day, I went out riding with Sue from the Furies. We went North on Sheridan Road all the way up through Evanston and Winnetka and through the ravines.

It was awesome! I was SO comfortable on the bike. I couldn't believe how good I felt. None of the nerves or worries from previous rides were with me on this one. I think the main reason I was more comfortable was that the road was just 2 lanes and the speed limit was never more than about 40.

The ravines have tight curves and beautiful scenery. I LOVED going around the curves and screaming "SLOW LOOK PRESS ROLL" into my helmet as I approached each curve. But I had a smile on my face the whole time and kept saying to Sue "lets do it again" each time we finished curving and dipping through the ravines.

The best part was after my first trip through, I saw a red-bird fly across my path in the parking lot when we were turning around. For the past 6 years, a red-bird in my path has always been a sign that God is still hanging out with me and that I am on the right path. This is the first time I've seen one in a very l

I wish that this was the type of riding I could do all the time. It was fun, non-scary, and I didn't end up at home crying afterwards. THIS is how i want to ride.

I just wish I lived in a place that would allow me to ride this way more often.
So, Saturday was the day of the bike blessing. And all of the practicing and preparation for riding was now over and it was time to put the rubber on the road-- literally.

It did not begin well. My stomach had been bothering me since Thursday because I was so nervous about the ride. When I went out to gear up and start the bike on Saturday morning, a steady rain began to fall.

Rain. I hadn't ridden in the rain before.

So, I sucked it up and MJ and I headed off to the meet-up spot with Nora following behind. I was a nervous wreck. Every little shiny spot on the pavement terrified me and I did not want to be going even as fast as we were going-- and we weren't going all that fast. We made it to the gas station and then to breakfast without incident, but I was so freaked out that when i got off the bike i left keys in and the lights on.

We kind of waited out the rain hoping it would stop-- it didn't, so we set out on the way to McHenry. There were 8 of us riding together- 2 Furies: Sue and MJ, 3 ladies from the HOG group, a regular city rider and then me and Joanna. Joanna had been riding 3 weeks and had never ridden in the rain or very far, and of course I have only done one long-ish ride an that was last season. So,  yeah, we were quite a crew.

Sue led the way, i was the second bike, and somehow I managed to keep up despite being terrified out of my gourd. I didn't calm down until the nice long DRY straight stretches on route 12. But I still didn't want to go much over 45 mph.

Somehow though, we made it. I made it all the way to McHenry.

The blessing went great. It was a wonderful experience to have over 20 bikes and women there wanting their riding seasons blessed.  Click here for pictures!

After the blessing however, I was NOT ready to ride back. I was so nervous I seriously thought I was going to lose the most excellent lunch McHenry Harley Davidson had provided. And then once we got on the road, the wind was blowing across the road and kept jostling me on the back of the bike which completely and totally freaked me out. I had no idea how to deal with the wind.

It was a long, slow ride home. I was a nervous wreck the entire way home.  I was more nervous because there weren't as many bikes with us and because I was worried about the wind and about getting home on time and I just felt nervous. There was no part of the ride home that I actually enjoyed and that bothered me.

I had actually enjoyed parts of the ride out to McHenry, but on the way home I just couldn't get past my nerves and the desire to just get home and get off the bike.

All in all i rode 85 miles, had my first ride in the rain, my first group ride and my first long ride. It was a good day of firsts, but I wish I could get past the nerves and enjoy the ride.
Liz Jansen posted the following in her blog:
I think it speaks to exactly what i'm dealing with as far as fears and expectations-- great advice!
Have i mentioned that i have the most awesome riding mentor ever? Yeah...cuz i do. MJ took me out again last night to practice more.

We did some practice in the parking lot-- stopping and going. But we also rode with a 3rd person, so i had to get used to having someone behind me. For the most part, i forgot Sue was back there, but in the back of my head i knew she was there and keeping me safe, which somehow made me feel better. I felt protected.

We did some really tight slow turns in the parking lot, and for the most part I did ok-- I missed the final cone a few times, but also i made it around all of the cones a a couple of times too, so I was pleased.

It comes down to this: I'm scared to go fast. I'm perfectly happy at about 45 miles per hour.  I feel in control of the bike and myself at that speed. I like that speed. Any thing faster makes me nervous and feel less able to control the bike.

Is there something wrong with only wanting to go "so" fast? Does that make me a poor biker?
So, yesterday was the first time I had ridden again since the almost-accident. It took me a few miles before i was able to breathe on the back of the bike again. It didn't help that it was spitting rain on me too. My mentor and i went down to the lake and did a lot of practice-- primarily turning. I get very nervous about turning, especially from a stop. So we practiced a lot of turns and some stopping as well.

I'm fine in the parking lot.
I'm fine on the small roads down by the lakefront where I never get above 40mph and rarely hit 5th gear.
I'm fine on the little side streets in the neighborhood.

I'm not so fine when I start thinking about real roads.

Even though in October, I was just fine-- fine enough to do the twisties in the ravines and fine enough to ride out to a suburb on backroads and back home without major incident. My confidence is shot.
I'm still reading Riding in the Shadows of the Saints by Jana Richman. On page 94 she says, "The relationship between motorcyle and rider is more like an affair: intense, charged with energy, demanding a great deal of attention and an acute sense of awareness. A relatively small mistake can have large consequences"

It's this small mistake large consequence thing that makes me the most nervous about being a new rider. There's so much to remember- T-Clocs, FINE-C, clutch, gear, brake, brake, keep your head on a swivel, look where you want to go, slow look press and lean in curves. So much to remember. I'm terrified that i'll forget that ONE thing that will keep me safe.

I struggle with wanting to be "good" at this sport, and in wanting to be "good" at it, i get lost in the persuit of perfection instead of focusing on being SAFE.